A fitting end to this trilogy, which, in even its trippiest moments, maintains a plausibility that others in this subgenre...

THE ROSEWATER REDEMPTION

From the The Wormwood Trilogy series , Vol. 3

In an alternate near future, the threat of an alien invasion looms ever closer in the city-state of Rosewater, the surrounding nation of Nigeria, and, ultimately, all of Earth.

As per the agreement set in the previous Wormwood novel (The Rosewater Insurrection, 2019), the alien Homians have begun mentally occupying reanimates, apparently mindless fresh human corpses healed and revived by Homian technology. Unbeknownst to most, this is the beginning of a gradual takeover of Earth by the Homians. But some Homians are trying to speed up the process through a series of mass murders. Worse still, Hannah Jacques, a lawyer and the wife of Rosewater’s mayor (who struck the deal with the Homians), publicly reveals that reanimates are capable of recovering their memories and cognitive facilities. Tensions in Rosewater rise still higher as criminal twins and rivals Taiwo and Kehinde engage in violent turf wars and the mayor legalizes gay marriage in what is still a very homophobic population. Meanwhile, Femi Alaagomeji, once the head of the Nigerian intelligence agency S45, works to counter the Homian threat, enlisting her former operative Kaaro, the cowardly but powerful psychic who is sensitive to her cause even while his girlfriend, Aminat, another ex–S45 agent, feels frustrated in her current position as Rosewater’s head of security. And Oyin Da, the enigmatic time-traveling woman also known as Bicycle Girl, learns some troubling truths about herself as she searches for a way to undermine the aliens and ensure humanity’s survival. Popular American tales of alien invasion typically depict the contentious nations of the world recognizing the threat and uniting despite their differences to defeat the unearthly foe; Thompson is far too canny about how even an alternate version of our planet really works politically to throw such a corny show our way. Of course, it’s still a trope (but a more believable one) that only a few people are clearsighted and ruthless enough to see and act upon the truth while everyone else fails to notice, too intent on their own needs. The ultimate strategy our (anti)heroes choose to employ against the Homians also has its roots in a sci-fi plot device that’s more than a century old, but it’s still carried off with drama and panache.

A fitting end to this trilogy, which, in even its trippiest moments, maintains a plausibility that others in this subgenre often lack.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-44909-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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